Monday, 15 February 2010

Just finished: Osen

Going by national stereotypes, you'd be hard pushed to find two more dissimilar countries than Italy and Japan, but in some ways their cultures parallel each other closely.

The most obvious of this is their attitude to food. A constant bemoaning of modern methods and a nostalgia for what used to be, coupled with an almost orgasmic appreciation for the food itself means the two are, to my mind, very similar.

As such, while watching this programme, I found myself thinking this would work very well on Italian TV. It's a cosy, warm-hearted show set in a top-of-the-range restaurant intent on preserving the old ways despite the constant pressures to modernize. Aoi Yu stars as the drunken yet respected owner who bumbles from one event to the next, dispensing wisdom along the way. She leads a band of devoted kitchen staff, including a stern head chef, enthusiastic new boy, and frustrated assistance chef.

The writing is pretty formulaic. At least the writers are aware enough of this to put in a scene where one character (who's threatening the restaurant) is about to eat, and he says something like "I suppose this food will be so delicious I'll change my mind?" which is exactly what happens.

It's a reassuring cup-of-hot-cocoa kind of show that tells its viewers that however grey and bland modern life may be, there is another way. A simpler, more noble way, where everything took ages but was worth it in the end. Which is more than can be said for the show. Apart from Aoi Yu being a cute drunk, there's not much to recommend it. The supporting characters are all pretty bland, although it does get better as the story goes on and it ends on a fairly bleak note.

I'm not sure what to make of the show's central theme. I'm all for the Slow Food movement, but I do wonder how practical it is. And the restaurant was at the high end of the market, so preserving these traditional foods would seem to benefit only the wealthy. Still, leaving the socio-political debate aside, this is a well-meaning, rose-tinted drama that should appeal to foodies.

1 comment:

  1. When I began watching Osen, I thought it was just a fluffy show. Fun, but okayish... By the end, however, having a family in the restaurant business, it was moving to me.

    The food looked good though. I'm still wanting to try Osen's special Sukiyaki, and that hamburger LOL